Protest against molestation of schoolgirl by RAF constable

Tension simmered in the Darjeeling hills even as normal life on Sunday was severely affected, with market places closed and traffic off the roads because of the 12-hour strike called by the student organisation affiliated to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM).

The strike was in protest against the molestation of a schoolgirl by a constable of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) in Ghoom area near Darjeeling. The incident had sparked violence in various parts of the region on Saturday.

Condemning the “brutal lathi charge” on those protesting the incident, GJM president Bimal Gurung said his party wanted a high-level inquiry into the police action which he described as “an act of cowardice and immaturity.” There was no untoward incident during the strike but it was not clear who were behind the violence on the previous day.

Two State buses had been set ablaze and there was an attempt to set a police station on fire, which resulted in police firing in the air. “There was extensive patrolling by the district police and paramilitary forces. We also had interactions with a section of civil society to ensure calm in the region. School principals were also requested to ask their students to be restrained,” Kunal Agarwal, superintendent of police, Darjeeling, told The Hindu over phone.

“Though Saturday’s incident has been an assault on the dignity of the people of the region, there is a need to remain calm,” said GJM general secretary Roshan Giri. More than 100 persons were detained in overnight raids by the police across the region though Jyoti Kumar Rai, GJM assistant secretary, member of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration and close associate of Mr. Gurung who was arrested late on Saturday night, was granted interim bail during the day.

The Gorkha Janmukti Vidyarthi Morcha, sponsors of the strike, has called for rallies to be taken out in the three hill sub-divisions on Monday in condemnation of action by the security forces against the protesting students on Saturday, said Sanjeeb S. Chettri, a member of the organisation’s central committee.

The GJM leadership has written to Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde regarding the attack on the girl and sought “exemplary punishment” for the culprit, Mr. Giri added.

The constable has been remanded in judicial custody till October 5.